Aurangabad, like most Mughal-trodden spots on the Indian map, is two-faced. The old wrinkles of
Aurangabad, like most Mughal-trodden spots on the Indian map, is two-faced. The old wrinkles ofa bygone era enhance the youthful flush of this touristdriven economy (Aurangabad acts as the gateway to Ajanta-Ellora), like the rambling fort wall of the city or the sun-bleached dargahs that promise to be keepers of more of the prodigious history that sustains this city. The important tourist sites in the town are: the Bibi ka Maqbara, an elegant structure, locally called the twin of Taj Mahal; Panchakki, which is a water wheel and Daulatabad, a coveted stronghold of its times.s
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Aurangabad is a city with rich history behind it. The region was once ruled by the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughals. Owing to its geographic location, many rulers have built forts and other monuments of importance in the area. Today, these sites have turned into popular tourist destinations.
Bibi Ka Maqbara
The iconic Taj Mahal might be seemingly unique but its legendary status has ensured that people have tried to replicate it over the years. While a Bangladeshi filmmaker made one close to Dhaka in 2008 and a postman in Bulandshahr recently built a mini-Taj to commemorate his wife, one of the earliest attempts was in the 17th century.
It is believed that the Bibi ka Maqbara (literally ‘tomb of the lady’) was built to outshine the Taj Mahal, but due to budgetary constraints and opposition from emperor Aurangzeb, it ended up being a mere shadow of the original. Despite this, the monument, also known as the Dakkhani Taj (Taj of the Deccan) or the poor person’s Taj, is worth seeing in its own right.
Set in a Mughal charbagh garden enclosure on a raised platform, the mausoleum is crowned with an onion-shaped dome and has four minars (towers) surrounding it. There is a mosque as well on the plinth, which was a later addition by the Nizam of Hyderabad. The mountain ranges rolling behind the tomb provide the perfect backdrop. As in other Mughal monuments, there is a canal lined with ornamental shrubs running along the approach path. However, unlike the Taj, only some parts are built of marble while the rest is made of a high quality plaster. Thus, the structure has an ersatz marble-like appearance and lacks the whiteness and sheen of its predecessor.
The mausoleum was built for Rabia-ul Daurani, also known as Dilras Banu Begum, the third wife of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, by her son Azam Shah. It was constructed between 1551 to 1561 CE with marble brought from mines near Jaipur.
While Azam Shah wanted to raise a grand structure, Aurangzeb, famous for his frugality, refused to spend lavishly. He blocked the movement of construction materials from Rajasthan until finally a compromise was reached and only the dome was built of marble. According to contemporary accounts, the construction cost more than Rs. 6,00,000. Comparisons to the Taj notwithstanding, the tomb is a grand structure and once you see it, you’ll know why it is emblematic of Aurangabad.
Entry Indians ₹5; Foreigners ₹100
Not far from the Bibi ka Maqbara, inside the campus of the BR Ambedkar Marathwada University, is Sunehri Mahal (literally ‘golden palace’). The palace was so called because of the golden paintings which embellished its interiors. Built by Paharsingh, a chieftain from Bundelkhand who accompanied Aurangzeb on his Deccan invasions, in 1652 CE at a cost of ₹50,000, the palace was later sold to the Nizam of Hyderabad. It is a two-storey edifice set in a lush garden against the Satara mountain range. The lawn is surrounded by an enclosure studded with arches and has an imposing gateway at its entrance. The first floor of the palace, accessible by two narrow staircases, has been turned into a museum. There are nine galleries with a variety of exhibits like sculptures, weapons, paintings and utensils.
A marvel of medieval engineering in India, the Panchakki is a water mill that draws water from an underground canal 6 km to the north of the city. Water travels through earthen pipes to collect in a reservoir where it is raised to a height and discharged, akin to a waterfall, into a large reservoir below. This action is used to run a mill adjacent to the tank. It is said that the mill could earlier grind flour on its own, without any human effort. The Panchakki was built in 1744 to commemorate Baba Shah Musafir, a renowned saint who moved here from Bukhara. His tomb is part of the same complex as the water mill and draws a large number of devotees.
There is also a library in the compound which has a collection of 2,500 books and manuscripts on history, jurisprudence, medicine, religion and philosophy in Persian, Urdu and Arabic. The library is supposed to have earlier housed 1,00,000 books but many were moved to Hyderabad for administrative reasons.
The Shivaji museum was founded by the Municipal Corporation of Aurangabad to commemorate the first Maratha leader Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. It has a collection of coins, weapons, clothes, armours as well as memorabilia related to the emperor. Some of its famous exhibits are Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s hand-written copy of the Koran, a 400-year-old sari and a 500-year-old war suit. It is located near Nehru Bal Udyan.
Entry ₹5 Timings 10.30am–6.00pm Photography is not permitted Tel: 0240-2334087
Salim Ali Sarovar
The Salim Ali Sarovar (lake) is an oasis of tranquility amid urban chaos. Historically known as Khizri Talaab, it was renamed as Salim Ali Sarovar in honour of the pioneering ornithologist who systemically studied the avian biodiversity of the country and promoted their conservation.
The lake has been redeveloped in the past decade and now it has facilities for boating and a 60-feet-tall tower for birdwatching. While human activity has led to a drop in the number of birds inhabiting the lake, it still hosts a significant avian population, including many migratory birds.
The lake is located near Delhi Darwaza, opposite Himayat Bagh.
Aurangabad is surrounded by remnants of buttressed walls and bastions. The fortification is still evident in the numerous gates found across the city, giving it the moniker ‘city of gates’. It is said that originally there were 52 gates, of which at least 13 are still extant.
Some of the more significant gates are Makai Darwaza, Mahmood Darwaza, Islam Darawaza, Bhadkal Darawaza and Delhi Darwaza. The Bhadkal Darwaza was built by Malik Ambar in 1612 CE to commemorate his victory against the Mughals.
Pir Ismail Mausoleum
Pir Ismael was the tutor of Aurangzeb. His tomb is built in a picturesque garden, in which you can also find many cisterns and fountains. The tomb is primarily built in the Mughal style, but has flourishes of Pathan architecture too. It is a square structure with domed pavilions at the corners. The entrance of the tomb complex is through a gate with a grand pointed archway and rooftop pavilions.
The tomb is located on Harsul Road outside Delhi Darwaza.
Although not as spectacular as the caverns at Ajanta and Ellora, the Aurangabad Caves on the outskirts of the city are worth a visit, especially for history enthusiasts. Carved along a hillside at a height of 70 m, the 12 caves are divided into three groups – cave numbers 1 to 5 comprise the first group. The second group, consisting of cave numbers 6 to 9, is 500 m to its east. A kilometre further to the east is the third group comprising of caves 10 to 12. They are largely unfinished and devoid of ornamentation.
The caves were excavated between the 3rd and 7th century CE and are fine examples of Buddhist architecture. The influence of Tantric Buddhism is visible in the carvings in these caves – especially in Cave number 7 which features images of scantily-clad lovers. The rocks of the hill are not strong enough to withstand excavation work and many have collapsed or developed cracks. As a result, construction in some caves was abandoned midway. The caves offer views of the Bibi ka Maqbara and Sunehri Mahal. They are located 2 km north of Bibi ka Maqbara and can easily be reached by an autorickshaw from the city.
Goga Baba Hill
The Goga Baba hill is a part of the same mountain range as the Aurangabad Caves. It is named after a temple at the summit dedicated to Goga Baba. Not much is known about the hermit or the eponymous temple. The peak can be ascended by a short trek and offers sweeping vistas of the city. There is a temple dedicated to a goddess on a neighbouring hill as well.
Goga Baba hill is located behind the Marathwada University.
WHERE TO STAY
Vivanta By Taj (Tel: 0240-6613737; Tariff: ₹8,500–30,000) on Harsool Road near Rangeen Darwaza is a luxury property with good ambience and good food. Welcom Hotel Rama International (Tel: 6634141; Tariff: ₹7,500–32,000) has a restaurant, bar, swimming pool and even a mini-golf course for those whose holiday is not complete without a swing on the greens. Lemon Tree Hotel (Tel: 6603030; Tariff: ₹7,200–15,000) in Chikalthana, near CIDCO Bus Stand, has restaurants, a bar, swimming pool and spa. Spread over 14 acres, the 92-room Ambassador Ajanta (Tel: 6607200; Tariff: ₹8,500–30,000) is another luxury hotel located near the airport on Chikalthana-Jalna Road.
MTDC’s Holiday Resort (Tel: 2331513; Tariff: ₹1,550–3,000) and Hotel Panchvati (Tel: 2328755; Tariff: ₹1,125–1,250), well located near the railway station, are decent budget options. Hotel Amarpreet (Tel: 2332521-23, 6621133; Tariff: ₹4,290– 8,540), on Jalna Road, has a restaurant and bar. The centrally located Hotel Windsor Castle (Tel: 2484177; Tariff: ₹3,900–6,500) offers similar facilities. They also have a swimming pool.
WHERE TO EAT
Apart from the restaurants at the hotels, which serve great multi-cuisine fare, there are plenty of standalone restaurants in Aurangabad. Green Leaf serves good vegetarian Gujarati as well as Punjabi cuisine in decent surroundings. For sumptuous, traditional and authentic vegetarian thalis, Bhoj and That Baat are the choices. The best butter chicken can be eaten at Foodwala’s Tandoor Restaurant and Bar. They serve good Chinese too. For great ambience and delectable Italian, Mexican, Indian and Chinese food, head for Madhuban Garden Restaurant on Beed Bypass. Not to be missed is Kream n Krunch for great pan-Asian cuisine. There is also Tara Pan Centre for an amazing variety of pan. It is a must-visit if you are in Aurangabad.
Daulatabad Fort (16 km)
As you travel from Aurangabad to Ellora, it is hard to miss the Daulatabad Fort looming on the horizon. Rising sharply from a carpet of verdure, the imposing fort is yet another impressive specimen of the hill forts of Maharashtra. Built on a 700-ft-high conical hill, Daulatabad was one of the most powerful and intricate forts of the Deccan. Spanning an area of almost 100 hectares, it incorporates fascinating examples of architecture, military engineering, town planning and water management systems.
First built upon by the Yadavs of Devgiri in 11th century CE, it was conquered by the Khilji dynasty in the 12th century. Muhammad bin Tughlaq shifted his capital from Delhi to here to consolidate his empire and for protection against invaders from the north. He renamed the fort as Daulatabad. After he again moved his capital back to Delhi, Hasan Gangu of the Bahmani dynasty annexed Daulatabad. The Nizamshahis of Ahmednagar wrested control of the fort in 1499 CE and made it their capital. After a relentless siege, the Mughals conquered the fort in 1633 CE. The Marathas controlled it for a brief period before the Nizams of Hyderabad annexed it in 1724 CE.
The defensive constructions of the fort consist of three fortified walls and walkways, a double dry and wet moat, gates with iron spikes, bastions and turrets. The outermost wall of the fort is known as Ambarkot. The wall, believed to have been constructed by Malik Ambar, is 14 km long, has 45 bastions and nine main gates. There are a few mosques and a hammam (bath) in the Ambarkot.
Invaders who managed to penetrate the Ambarkot would have to deal with the Mahakot, the next line of defence. The 5-km-long fortification has four distinct layers of enclosure walls and encompasses 54 bastions, some of which are double and triplestoreyed. The Mahakot has notable structures such as the Bharat Mata temple, Chand Minar and Hathi Tank.
Built by Sultan Alauddin Bahmani in 1435 CE to commemorate his victory over Gujarat, the Chand Minar is a tower made of stone and adorned with coloured tiles. It spans across four floors, which are accessible by a spiral staircase. Every floor has six small windows for ventilation. At the base of the tower, there is a chamber with 24 arches. Close to it, there is a mosque and the Nagar Khana.
The Bharat Mata temple, despite its name, is actually a mosque. It is so called because one of its walls has a statue of Bharat Mata (Mother India). Constructed during the reign of Qutubuddin Khilji in 1318 CE, it is one of the oldest structures in the fort and is also known as Jama Masjid. It was built by reusing the pillars and stone of a temple that was constructed there in the 10th–11th century CE by the Yadavs. The mosque can be accessed from gates on three sides that open into a courtyard. On the western side, there is a covered and colonnaded space leading to the mihrab and crowned by a dome.
The Saraswati Bawdi (stepwell), located next to the main entry gate, consists of descending stone blocks leading to a well. While earlier water was supplied by pipes from the reservoir, it now only stores runoff water. An inscription in the fort mentions that the water was mainly for public use.
The Hathi Tank (literally ‘elephant tank’) is so called because of its large size. It was constructed by Malik Ambar who was renowned for his management of water resources. The tank relies solely on gravitation to collect water. With an estimated capacity of 10,000 cubic metres, the tank had a network of pipes to supply water to various parts of the fort.
The Kacheri is a double-storeyed palace with a vast courtyard in front. Its central hall has a large dome, which is adorned with polished stucco mouldings.
The Hammam, constructed during the Tughlaq period, was used by the upper classes for bathing. The edifice is built using stone plastered with lime-mortar and its chambers are adorned with stucco plaster and painting. It has a large network of rooms, enclosures and compartments. The ceiling is domed and has an aperture for ventilation. There were separate baths for men and women. Water was transported throughout the complex using earthen pipes. While the hammam is largely well-preserved, the structures for heating water are no more.
The next layer of fortification, Kalakot, is located right at the foot of the hill. It is roughly rectangular in shape and encloses a large palace complex built by the Ahmednagar dynasty. The fortification has a deep rock-cut moat that encircles the western side, thick and wide walls with walkways and strategically-positioned bastions and turrets.
The deep and wide moat was excavated from a rock. It has a very steep incline making it impossible for humans or animals to scale. The area surrounding the moat was plain so that spies or enemies could not hide and reach the fort unnoticed. Earlier there was a drawbridge over it which was pulled up at night. During times of siege, the moat could be flooded with water to render the bridge impassable. In 1874, the Nizam of Hyderabad constructed a masonry bridge. The iron bridge currently in use was built in 1952 so that tourists could have easy access.
Chini Mahal, a double-storeyed palace, is so called because it was formerly inlaid with blue and yellow enamelled tiles. The first storey has two rooms and is well-ventilated. The structure is largely well preserved. It was at the Chini Mahal that Aurangzeb, after the fall of the Golkonda dynasty, imprisoned its last ruler Abdul Hasan Tanashah until the latter’s death in 1700 CE.
Rang Mahal, thought to have been built in the 18th century, is a rectangular structure with six interconnected chambers. Two inner rooms on the southeast and northeast have another storey on top and fragments of their roofs can still be seen. There is an arched doorway adorned with medallions and floral designs at the entrance. It opens into a central chamber which is connected to others through arched doors and latticed windows. The roof of the structure was built with wooden beams and lime concrete and is supported by pillars. The pillars have intricate carvings and are the only extant example of wood-carved architecture in the fort.
The Andheri or dark tunnel is a subterranean passage at the entrance of the fort which could easily be blocked during a siege. The tunnel rises abruptly through a flight of uneven steps, making it difficult to navigate without light. Many cells were cut into the rock alongside the tunnel to make room for guards and storage. The passage eventually opens out through a window (now barred with grills) into a ditch which was a trap for intruders. It is said that the defending armies flooded the tunnel with smoke or threw boiling oil or water down the tunnel in order to thwart invaders.
The Baradari, a white pavilion with 12 arches, is located at the top of the hill. Next to it, there is a square courtyard surrounded by porticos and galleries. The Baradari, constructed at the behest of Shah Jahan in 1636 CE, was favoured by the emperor and his son Aurangzeb who used it as their summer residence. It has two storeys and was built using uniformly sized basalt stones.
Due to continuous occupation by different dynasties, the Daulatabad fort is abundant with cannons. Many of them are still in their original locations on the fort walls, bastions and towers while others were brought from different places to the courtyards near the entrance and next to Aam Khas gate. Notable among the cannons are Aurangzeb’s Mendha (literally ‘ram’), so called because it is shaped like a ram. Originally known as Qila Shikan (literally ‘fort-breaker’), the cannon is placed between Chini Mahal and Rang Mahal. Dara Shikoh’s cannon is located near Aam Khas at the highest point of the fort. A lot of artillery in Daulatabad is of European origin which is unusual considering that the Europeans never took control of the fort.
How to reach From Aurangabad, take the National Highway 211 – which goes all the way to Khuldabad and Ellora. The Daulatabad Fort lies northwest of Aurangabad, from where frequent buses are available.
Entry Indians ₹5; Foreigners ₹100 Timings Sunrise to Sunset Photography Free Videography ₹25
Khuldabad (30 km)
Most travellers bypass Khuldabad to visit its more famous neighbour, the Ellora caves. However, the town has shrines of important religious figures, the tomb of Aurangzeb and nume-rous ruins, making it an interesting place for the historically or spiritually inclined. Khuldabad is located northwest of Aurangabad. Accommodation at Khuldabad is limited, with the State Guest House being one of the better options, so most visitors opt to stay at Ellora.
Tomb Of Aurangzeb
The tomb of Aurangzeb, while not a sight to behold, nevertheless draws many visitors because of its historical importance. It is situated at the centre of a raised stone platform and surrounded by latticed marble screens (which was a later addition by the Nizam of Hyderabad). Aurangzeb himself chose the spot and gave instructions regarding his burial. His son Azam Shah brought his body to Khuldabad and made a simple grave for him without any embellishments, as was Aurangzeb’s wish. To the east of Aurangzeb’s tomb are the graves of Azam Shah and his wife.
Masusoleum Of Burhanuddin
Burhanuddin, a revered saint, studied under Nizamuddin Auliya, one of the foremost saints of the Sufi order. He migrated to Daulatabad when Muhammad bin Tughlaq shifted his capital from Delhi to Daulabatad and later settled in Khuldabad. He died in 1344 CE. His shrine, located opposite the tombs of Aurangzeb and Zainuddin, is built inside an enclosure. There is a mosque in front of it. Legend has it that hair from the saint’s beard is preserved in the tomb.
Mausoleum Of Zainuddin
Zainuddin, an eminent Muslim saint and scholar, was born in Shiraz, Iran in 1301 CE. He was a disciple of Maulana Kamaluddin of Samana and accompanied him to Daulatabad. Zainuddin’s teachings have been recorded in Hidayatul Kabul by Shaikh Husain. His disciples built a mausoleum for him much after his death. The tomb complex has a wall surrounding it and the enclosed courtyard has two mosques at two levels. The year of his death (1370 CE) is etched on the eastern side of the mausoleum along with verses from the Koran. The robe of the saint has been preserved in a room in the courtyard and is publicly exhibited every 12 years.
Tomb Of Asaf Jah
The tomb of Asaf Jah, the founder of the Nizam dynasty of Hyderabad, is located to the right of Burhanuddin’s tomb. He is buried along with his consort. Their graves are built on an elevated platform inlaid with marble. There is a screen of red stone around the platform. The tomb of Nasir Jang, the second son of Asaf Jah, is also nearby
Khan Jahan Lal Bagh
Khan Jahan, the foster son of Aurangazeb and the then Viceroy of the Deccan, built the Lal Bagh (literally ‘red garden’). It is so called because red basalt was used for the construction of Khan Jahan’s tomb and other monuments inside. The garden is a Mughal charbagh with a tank at the centre.
Bani Begum Maqbara
Bani Begum was a concubine of one of Aurangzeb’s sons. Her mausoleum, located to the west of the Aurangzeb’s tomb, is in the centre of a sprawling garden. The grave is built within an enclosure which has minarets at the four corners. It is decorated with jalis (latticed screens).
Bhadra Maruti Temple
The Bhadra Maruti temple is famous for its idol of the monkey-god Hanumana in a sleeping pose (Maruti is another name for Hanumana). The only other such temple is in Allahabad. Hanumana figures in the Ramayana as an associate of Ram and Lakshmana. He fought the demon-king Ravana to rescue Sita, Rama’s wife. It is believed that Hanuman, who had lifted the entire mountain on which the lifesaving Sanjivani herb grew to aid the injured Lakshmana, rested at the spot where we find the Bhadra Maruti temple is today, en route from the Himalayas to Lanka.
Another legend has it that Rajarshi Bhadrasen, an ancient ruler of Khuldabad, would sit next to the Bhadrakunda lake and sing hymns in praise of the monkey god. On one of his journeys, Hanumana heard the mellifluous notes and captivated by Bhadrasen’s music, descended from the sky and sat enraptured. Eventually the music lulled him to sleep. When he woke up, he was immensely pleased with Bhadrasen and granted him a wish. The ruler asked Hanumana to stay with in the town forever. Hanumana smiled and left. Some days later, an idol of Hanumana was found at the spot where he had slept. To install the idol, the king built a temple, today known as the Bhadra Maruti. It is about 2 km away from Aurangzeb’s tomb in Khuladabad.
Other Places Of Interest
Among the numerous other tombs in Khuldabad are those of Malik Ambar, Tana Shah (the last of the Golkonda Sultans), Nizam Shah (the rule of Ahmednagar), Zar Zari Baksh and Ganj Ravan Baksh who is believed to be one of the first Muslim saints to come here. The ruins of the city wall and the seven gates – Nagarkhana, Pangra, Langda, Mangalpeth, Kunbi Ali, Hamdadi and Azam Shahi – constructed by Aurangzeb are still extant.
Kachner (34 km)
The Chintamani Parsvanath temple is a holy site for Jains, though it is frequented by others due to its reputation as a place where desires are fulfilled.
The idol at the temple is supposed to have been discovered by an old woman about 250 years ago. According to folklore, she used to see her cow giving milk at a particular spot daily. One day she tied the cow, but by the evening, the cow managed to free herself and was again found at the same spot. When the woman mentioned this to other villagers, they started digging at the spot until they hit the gate to a chamber inside which they found an idol of Parsvanath crowned with seven serpents. They built a temple at the spot to install the statue. A few years after, the head of the idol broke off. This was a bad omen and made the villagers distressed. They thought of disposing off the broken idol in a pond and installing a new one instead.
However, a priest saw a dream in which Parsvanath instructed him to dig a pit, place the damaged idol in a pit with ghee and sugar and worship it continuously for seven days. The villagers did so and when the idol was dug out, the head was miraculously reattached. As evidence of this story, people point to the crack below the neck of the idol.
Gautala Wildlife Sanctuary (80 km)
Spanning an area of 261 sq km, the Gautala Wildlife Sanctuary has a population of leopard, chital, black buck, wild boar, hyena, jackal, nilgai, and barking deer. It is best visited on a day trip from Aurangabad. For more information regarding the sanctuary, contact the Office of the Chief Conservator of Forests, Van Bhawan, Osmanapura Opp. SSC Board, Station Road, Aurangabad.
Pitalkhora Caves (80 km)
One of the earliest examples of rock-cut architecture can be seen in Pitalkhora – a group of 14 Buddhist caves. Some of the caverns were decorated with paintings, traces of which still remain.
The inscriptions on the rocks date back to the 3rd–4th century CE and mention ‘Patithana’ (capital of the Satvahana empire) and Dhanyakataka (a place in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh). The caves were carved from a kind of basalt rock which weathers fast and thus, many parts of it have crumbled.
The Pitalkhora Caves are located northwest of Aurangabad and are nearly 25 km west of Kannad, a tehsil headquarters. In order to reach the caves, take the Aurangabad- Chalisgaon Road, and turn into the diversion at Kalimath. From there, the caves are nearly 4 km away, situated in a valley.
When to go During the monsoons. Also pleasant between the months of October and March
MTDC, Holiday Resort
Location At an elevation of 568 m in the Aurangabad District of central Maharashtra
Distance 183 km E of Nashik
Route from Nashik Take SH30 from Nashik and continue on it till the Vaijapur-Gangapur Road; turn left and continue on the Nagpur-Aurangabad-Mumbai Highway
Air Chikalthana Airport, Aurangabad. Connected with Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad. Taxi charges ₹300 approx
Rail Aurangabad Station, with direct trains to Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Hyderabad and many other cities
Road From Mumbai, there are two routes to Aurangabad, via Nashik and via Pune. The latter is longer but faster.
Bus There are regular ST buses from Pune and Nashik and overnight services from Indore and Mumbai. MSRTC and private operators also offer luxury overnight buses from Mumbai